Monthly Archives: February 2015

Saint Innocent of Irkutsk

(February 9th)

Innocent of IrkutskAt the end of St. Matthew’s Gospel, before He ascends to heaven, Jesus Christ says: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Mt 28:19-20) All nations – in other words Christ is telling us that Christianity is not only for certain nations or certain nationalities, but for all people. So we see today that Orthodoxy is growing in Africa, in Latin America, in Asia, including China. Recently a Chinese man was ordained as an Orthodox priest for the first time in sixty years, and there are other signs of the rebirth of the Orthodox Church in China.
The saint we are commemorating today, Saint Innocent of Irkutsk, was supposed to be the first bishop of the Orthodox Church in China, although things did not go as planned. The Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Beijing was officially founded in 1715 by a command of Tsar Peter the Great, although there was an Orthodox presence even before that. Saint Innocent was born in 1680 and educated at the Kiev Theological Academy and ordained as a hieromonk. He held several important posts in Russia, then was consecrated a bishop in 1719 and appointed to the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Beijing. He made the long journey to China, but due to political factors the Chinese government would not let him in. He spent three years in very difficult conditions on the Chinese border. Finally the China plan was abandoned and the Holy Synod appointed Saint Innocent the bishop of the diocese of Irkutsk. Saint Innocent’s diocese was an ethnically mixed one, having for example Buryats and Mongols. It was a poor diocese and Saint Innocent labored with very little financial support. Nevertheless, he was tireless in building up Orthodoxy in that diocese bringing the Gospel of Christ to the very diverse members of his diocese, as well as building schools and churches. He died at the age of 51 in 1731. Years after his death his relics were found uncorrupt and many miracles occurred after people prayed to him. He was canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1800. In 1921 the relics of Saint Innocent were seized by the Soviets and returned in 1990 to the cathedral in Irkutsk.

Fr. John

The Threat of the Glorious Ones

glorious_onesOn February 4th we read the entire third chapter, verses 1 to 18, of 2 Peter. The letter was probably written between the years 80 and 90.

Part of the second chapter, verses 9 to 22, is read on February 3rd. Here we find a strong warning against false teachers. These are people who, though they accepted the Christian faith themselves, are now finding it difficult to adhere to Christianity’s strict moral teachings while living in a far more permissive pagan society. So they are attempting to downplay those teachings, minimizing their importance. They are working to convince other Christians to go along with their ideas.

The words Peter uses to describe them and their efforts are unequivocal. They are “waterless springs and mists driven by a storm,” and they speak “bombastic nonsense.” He compares them to a sow that is washed, only to wallow in the mud. They are “blots and blemishes, revelling in their dissipation.” The danger of their malicious behavior is that they “entice unsteady souls.”

To emphasize the danger, Peter writes of them that “bold and willful, they are not afraid to slander the glorious ones.” At first reading, we might think that he is saying that they defame the angels who do God’s will. But in fact, he is accusing them of doing something even more serious. The “glorious ones” here are the powers that work against God. By slandering them, or disrespecting their power, the false teachers do something that even God’s angels fear to do: “The angels, though greater in might and power, do not bring against them a slanderous judgement from the Lord.” The false teachers “slander what they do not understand,” and in so doing they bring a terrible penalty not only on themselves but on those they can lure into following them.

In describing their fate, Peter reminds his readers of the story, in Numbers 22, of a soothsayer named Balaam. He is hired by the Moabite king to pronounce a curse on the Israelites.

Balaam is riding on his donkey and doesn’t see the angel of the Lord standing in his path with a sword. But the donkey sees the angel three times, and stops. Balaam strikes the animal, still failing to see the angel blocking his path. Finally God makes the donkey speak, and makes Balaam realize that he is to bless, not curse, the people of Israel.

In the letter’s third chapter, Peter writes that some scoff at God because they don’t see the fulfillment of the “promise of His coming.” But Peter says that God is not slow. Rather, He is patiently giving all of us time to repent. We can trust Him to know when the “Day of the Lord” should come.

There are still “glorious ones” in the world that beckon us with power beyond our ability to understand. Scoffing at that power is still mortally dangerous. But God will always try to save us, even by the embarrassing strategy of making a donkey smarter than we are.

This and many other Christian Education resources are available at http://dce.oca.org